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Creative Commons: huh?
Creative Commons is a system for licensing copyrighted works to allow for their reuse and redistribution without the author’s further permission. It’s a way for artists to collaborate with each other and their fans without hiring lawyers to draw up complicated contracts to mediate their relationships. I was the first novelist to apply CC licenses to my works. I’ve experimented with many different kinds of licenses and so far, so good. Very good, in fact. The CC license on this book allows you to redistribute it, provided you don’t make any money off of it, and provided you don’t remove the license and don’t remove my name from it. Please — share this book!

I want to send you some money in exchange for downloading your book, how do I do that?
Basically, you don’t. I don’t work for tips. I have a source of income from my writing: royalties from the sale of my books. It’s a good source of income, and keeping it that way has some real advantages, namely keeping my interests aligned with my publisher’s. If you want to “tip” me, buy a copy of my book. If you don’t want a treeware edition, don’t buy it, or buy it and give it to a library or a shelter or a school. That gets me the royalty, boosts my sales-numbers, and makes everyone happy. But hey, it’s no skin off my nose if you read this without buying it; that’s just how it goes. I’ve given away more than half a million copies of my first book, and only a tiny fraction of those downloaders have bought the treeware books, but it was enough to push my book through five printings in eighteen months. So I’m not gonna come after you and call you nasty names if you download without buying.

I want to download your book in $SOME_OTHER_FORMAT, how do I do that?
Help yourself! Literally. The book’s up for download in three open, standards-defined formats: ASCII, PDF, and well-formed XHTML. Those formats are easy to convert to your format of choice, and I encourage you to do so. I’ll host and link to any converted formats I receive, on the downloads page. Here are the ground-rules for DIY file-conversions:

  1. Only use my text in your conversion. The beautiful artwork on this site isn’t mine to give away; the rights belong to the genius artist Dave McKean, and goddamn I’m a lucky man to have a cover painted by the likes of him.
  2. If it’s already been converted to your format of choice but the conversion doesn’t suit you, go ahead and re-convert it for your own use and distribution. But don’t send it to me: I’m a strictly first-come-first-served kinda guy. Once someone’s converted the book to format $foo, that’s it. Otherwise I have to either mediate disputes over appropriate layout choices in formats I’m not familiar with, or I have to try to come up with pithy, info-civilian-readable descriptions of differences between formats for my download page.
  3. Send me a link to the reader for your conversion so I can include it on the downloads page.
  4. No DRM. If your format of choice has a means of restricting copying, use or playback, you must not use it. DRM is anti-user technology. I am pro-user, and while I’ll tolerate just about any re-use of my books, the one perversion I won’t stomach is the use of bullshit DRM in connection with it, if I can help it. (Yes, my publisher authorizes a commercial ebook edition that has DRM on it. It’s not my idea. Judging from my royalty statements, not a lot of you are interested in buying ‘em either).

Hey, I found a typo, factual error, or have some other species of bug to report
Good work! Here’s the errata wiki, a community-editable web-page where you can post your correction. Thanks!

Are you making money by giving away books?
Hell ya. My writing income has doubled year on year for some five years now. Giving away books displaces some sales — that is, some people who get the book for free in etext don’t buy it — but it generates more sales. My books sell well. Here’s how to buy this one. Now, I’m the first to admit that this isn’t science. I can’t go back in time and re-release my books without Creative Commons licenses and compare sales. But they’re selling better than my publishers expect them to, and better than my colleagues’ books are selling, and that’s good enough for me.

How’d you talk Tor (my publisher) into letting you do this?
I asked. My editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (the senior editor at Tor, the largest sf publishing house in the world) is an awesome geek. He and I met on a BBS in the late eighties. He has his own blogs and servers, and he tweaks his own code. He wants to figure out what the future of electronic text is going to be as badly as I do, because his job depends on it. This kind of experiment was welcomed with open arms at Tor.

I’m a beginning writer, which publisher should I send my Creative Commons licensed book to?
Lots of publishers are experimenting with CC releasing, but that shouldn’t be what you’re worrying about just now. First, finish your book. Then sell it. I started submitting short fiction to the magazines when I was 16. I had my first pro sale when I was 26. I had my first novel published when I was 32. It is a long, long way from deciding to write to becoming a published novelist. Once you get a publisher, then worry about CC licensing.

What’s all this stuff about the “developing world?”
A large chunk of “ebook piracy” (downloading unauthorized ebooks from the net) is undertaken by people in the developing world, where the per-capita GDP can be less than a dollar a day. These people don’t represent any kind of commercial market for my books. No one in Burundi is going to pay a month’s wages for a copy of this book. A Ukrainian film of this book isn’t going to compete with box-office receipts in the Ukraine for a Hollywood version, if one emerges. No one imports commercial editions of my books into most developing nations, and if they did. they’d be priced out of the local market.

So I’ve applied a new, and very cool kind of Creative Commons license to this book: the Creative Commons Developing Nations License. What that means is that if you live in a country that’s not on the World Bank’s list of High-Income Countries, you get to do practically anything you want with this book.

While residents of the rich world are limited to making noncommercial copies of this book, residents of the developing world can do much more. Want to make a commercial edition of this book? Be my guest. A film? Sure thing. A translation into the local language? But of course.

The sole restriction is that you may not export your work with my book beyond the developing world. Your Ukranian film, Guyanese print edition, or Ghanian translation can be freely exported within the developing world, but can’t be sent back to the rich world, where my paying customers are.

It’s an honor to have the opportunity to help people who are living under circumstances that make mine seem like the lap of luxury. I’m especially hopeful that this will, in some small way, help developing nations bootstrap themselves into a better economic situation.

Are you doing a signing or appearance in my home town?
Man, I hope so! My day-job is European Affairs Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I spend three weeks a month on the road, mostly traveling in Europe, though sometimes I come to the US and Canada too. When I get the chance, I try to sort out an appearance, a speech or a signing, and when that happens, I put notice on my mailing list, and on my home page, and on my RSS feed. That’s the best way to find out if I’m headed anywhere towards you.

11 Responses to “FAQ”

  1. Pupeno

    It is nice to see someone care for the third world or developing countries in this way. I, as a resident of one of those countries (Argentina, which is not so bad) can confirm what he says. Buying books is way to expensive. The ones published here or nearby are not se expensive, but as a Science Fiction enthusiast and a programmer I tend to buy books in English which are not produced here.
    I used to buy a book each month or more (computer expensive books) when the economic situation was better (pre-2001), since then I bought about once per year, I can’t afford more.
    So, Cory Doctorow, Thank You!

  2. lanark

    another reader from argentina, with one question. I want to make a translation to spanish, and I’m willing to put it online, but I don’t know how to do for the high-incoming countries surfers can’t download it. Is this important? Or can I put the spanish translation for all people to download?

  3. Jay Sennett

    How do you address issues of systemic poverty in the U.S. with a CC license?

    By dividing up the world in developing versus high-income countries, low and no income folks in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia and so on fall through the cracks.

    The CC license for developing countries is awesome and thank you for doing what you do.


  4. Cory Doctorow

    Low and no income people in the US, Canada, etc still get the unlimited right to make copies of the book absolutely free; presumably that’s not “falling through the cracks.” It’s a fair sight more than most commercially prepared and published novels make available in the developed OR the developing world.

    The Devnat license plus the noncommercial license for the developed world represents the most freedom I think that I can spare my audience while still safeguarding my commercial interests; I make no bones about this.

    Why do you presume a responsibility on my part to taken not just those steps as are in my interest to address poverty and don’t run contrary to my publisher’s any my ability to earn money; but to actively undermine my own earning power and that of my publisher?

    I make charitable donations when I want to contribute to charity. This is my business and I don’t ever take such steps as I believe will put me out it.

  5. Jay Sennett

    I believe this question is directed at me?

    “Why do you presume a responsibility on my part to taken not just those steps as are in my interest to address poverty and don’t run contrary to my publisher’s any my ability to earn money; but to actively undermine my own earning power and that of my publisher?”

    I made no such presumptions. You did.

    I simply asked about the Devnat license. When I said that poor people in the so-called developed nations could “fall through the cracks” I meant that the title “developing nation” does not, on its surface, lead anyone to assume that poor people in the U.S. or Canada would be covered by such a linguistic trope.

    I think the issue might be better addressed by calling the license “developing people” instead of “developing nations.” Clunky but at least it stops dividing the world by geographic boundaries.

    That is all I meant. I’m curious how you interpreted my question to have some reflection on your annual charitable habits or how you earn your living.

    Kind regards,

  6. Rob Monroe

    I noticed that in my print copy of Someone, that there is still a disclaimer at the front of the book stating something like “All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or any part of it.” (Yeah, major paraphrasing.)

    So what does this mean in terms of the CC license? Does this mean I can freely share my electronic copy, print it off, etc, but I can’t do a thing to my book copy, like copy pages from it? Or does it mean something more complicated, something that would give Tor some power against those sharing the text in accord to the CC license?

  7. Anonymous

    *SPOILER WARNING* I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but why is there no resolution of the central mystery in the story? What is Alan/Adam/Andrew? How is he posible? How do a mountian and a washing machine make children? And what happened to Danny/Davey and Billy/Benny? Melted away? Huh? Great read, very compelling, but kind of a let down (some might say cop-out) at the end…
    I still look forward to your next one.

  8. Jeremy

    I enjoyed the book too. My main two confusions about the book:
    1. Discontinuity when Abraham and Mimi went to the mountain to bring dead Gaspar to his final resting place. But then the narrative broke off, and we were back in Torronto talking about wireless routers. I totally thought there was something wrong with my download, like I’d lost part of the book. Then it finally came back to that part. But I could never tell if the intervening episode was before or after the trip to the mountain.
    2. What the heck is going on with Baltashazar and Daniel? I mean, was B. actually responsible for Marci’s death? Did he corrupt D. and turn him to the dark side, in order to force A. out of the cave, into the wide world, where B. could live through him vicariously? Did B. hate D. and want to incite his death? Or was D. just mouthing off at the end?

  9. Ellison Wonderland

    To Jay: note that if you’re poor in a developed country, you are still probably a lot better off than a poor person in a developing country in terms of access to books. You’re more likely to have a computer to download the book or access a library that has the book or a computer on which you can download the book. On the other hand, if you’re living in a village in a third world country there might only be one or two computers in the whole town–maybe not even that, maybe you have to travel to the next town and wait in line for a week and pay money to use their computer–and if the owner of that computer wants to distribute copies of the book to the general public s/he will, at the very least, have to charge for materials, time, and the internet connection. Most people who are wondering where their next meal is going to come from are not so concerned about getting books that they’ll go into all the trouble to seeking them out themselves. Yes, poverty exists all over the world, but it’s a fallacy to assume that it’s the same everywhere. There are differences in such things as infrastructure and literacy levels. I think this is a good way for Mr. Doctorow to distribute his books to people that would not already get them. No idea is perfect; there will always be someone who falls through the cracks. But I think this idea comes damn near close to perfect and I commend it.

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